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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Viola Davis attends The Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch at Private Residence on September 25, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Rape Foundation)
Stefanie Keenan—The Rape Foundation/Getty Images

Fact: having an interview with Viola Davis is not unlike having a life class. You laugh, you cry, you bond over important issues, and both you and your soul are better immediately following the session. The actress, who recently partnered with Vaseline and Direct Relief to hold a free health clinic event in her hometown of Central Falls, RI, had no shortage of inspirational words of wisdom. Taking a page out of Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Davis tells us that the most beneficial thing she’s done in her 51 years on the planet is to embrace herself fully—flaws, failures, and all—and that there’s something to be said about accepting your own vulnerabilities.

“As I move through my life, and if I were to really, honestly look at it, then it’s probably more failures than successes, but there’s something about living through it that has connected me to other people,” Davis says. “Count it all joy. That makes me celebrate all that is my life and its imperfections, as well as the absolute perfect moments, like the adoption of my child, my marriage, all of those things that have released my life. All of it was built for a reason.”

Read more: Viola Davis On Being “More Than Just an Actress”

Although she wasn’t so willing to accept her imperfections in her younger years, Davis looks back on old photos now and sees nothing but the positive. “My go-to saying is that a privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, and I would tell my younger self exactly that—you are absolutely perfect the way you are,” she says. In lieu of the flaws she once used to zero in on, Davis sees the qualities she previously didn’t deem as important—like how tough and resilient she was—which ultimately ended up helping her in the long run. “We need to stop that with girls. We need to stop saying that all of their value is in the way they look, and whether they’re pretty or not,” she adds. “I hate it when people say things like, ‘She has a lot going for her because she’s beautiful.’ But what else is she? Because by the time she’s 65 and doesn’t have that tight rear end anymore, then you’re saying she has no value? That needs to stop. It’s the most detrimental thing to suggest that’s the only value you have.”

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